Letters to the editor

Jameson’s dismissal was questionable

Dear editor:

I’ve been following with great interest the dismissal of John Jameson as Chair of the Department of History. Admittedly, I know only what I have read in the Stater and other newspapers, but none of this makes sense to me. Even if it is conceded that Dr. Jameson did not follow proper procedures in granting leave for Dr. Pino, a leave which I confess I would not have granted while the semester was in progress, why was John fired and why was he fired by e-mail? What did either of those actions accomplish? The firing itself shocked me but the way it was handled outraged me. John Jameson is a good and decent person who agreed quite reluctantly to succeed the former chair, a person whose actions appeared to me to be far more egregious than this single act. At the same time the history department was going through its troubled times, our department had its own issues and our chair at the time certainly violated a number of university rules and procedures and she was not fired. Was the firing of John Jameson an action by a new administration trying to establish itself? Perhaps, but I ask again what did it accomplish? Did the firing of Jameson balance some unseen scales of justice? Did it earn the respect of the faculty for quick decisive action? I speak only for myself but this did not balance any scale as I see it nor did it earn respect. I think it was an ill-advised move, an overreaction to a situation that needed to be addressed with a precision instrument, not a sledgehammer. Respect? No, I can’t respect an administration that fires a person by e-mail, certainly not a person who has given so much of his professional life to this university. He has served Kent State and served it well. Would a day or so have made a difference? Wasn’t this something that could have waited until a face to face meeting was possible? Was the future of the university at stake? Hardly.

I’ve known John Jameson for a number of years. During some of that time he was our neighbor. I remember the day about 11 years ago. I came home from campus to find a very rattled husband. I asked what was wrong and he said he had met the school bus carrying our little boy, Sky, then about 6. Sky exited the bus and started up the driveway. For some reason, Sky darted past his dad and ran back into the street. Sky has autism and limited verbal skills so we never did establish why he ran out into the street. He had never done it before or since, thank goodness. Anyway, my husband said since the bus had moved on the car that stopped for the unloading could legally proceed. Sky would have been hit by a car that had the right of way. Except for one thing. As my husband explained, John Jameson was behind the wheel of that car and remained stopped the entire time Sky was walking up the driveway, running back down the driveway, and darting into the street. We were so grateful. The next day I went to see John to thank him. He explained he is never comfortable starting to drive again until he sees the child is in the house. Had he not been cautious, Sky would have been killed or seriously injured. Kent States’s administration had the legal right to fire John Jameson and do it by e-mail. But at what cost? Does a legal right of way guarantee the best outcome? Not always.

Trudy Steuernagel

Political science professor

Jameson deserved better from KSU

Dear editor:

I’ve known Dr. John Jameson for many years and was shocked to learn not only of his firing but of the disgraceful way in which it was done. Does anyone remember the 1950s, when fear of communism was so strong that university administrators stampeded faculties into taking “loyalty oaths”?

True, a man like Jameson, a man of solid principle, deeply committed to academic freedom, is not well suited to university administration at any time – and especially not now in this intensifying climate of anti-Muslim intolerance and subservience to pro-Israel opinion, whose existence only a liar would deny.

I therefore hope that when, according to the news story, “Feezel said the removal had nothing to do with the controversy that has surrounded Pino in the past year,” he was misquoted and that the correct word was “everything.” For what a great clamor there must have been at the President’s door! How else to explain, over what otherwise was such a trivial offense, the unceremonious dismissal of a man who for 11 years had served faithfully as Chair?

And wasn’t there perhaps another misquote in the news story where Dr. Clarence Wunderlin, simultaneously with the firing, summoned a few faculty “friends” to his home to discuss “what we as a faculty should do”? Didn’t he actually say, “we as a faction”? I’ve heard that whereas Drs. Wunderlin and Heiss were the ones who ratted Jameson out, the majority of his faculty actually supported him.

Does it all matter? Is there an important general principle involved here – besides the obvious one of simple justice to Jameson? Every university department has groups that occasionally side against each other and the Chair, and this is not always unhealthy. But when such groups can succeed in dragging public political intolerance into their struggles, thereby engaging and annexing the sensitivity and hence customary spinelessness of university officials to accomplish their departmental ends, that is going much too far. I certainly hope this is not the real explanation of the firing of John Jameson, a man who deserved better from his university.

Gerald Newman

Former history professor